Published in CSP Daily News

Industry groups say federal proposals would make it harder for c-stores to redeem food stamps

WASHINGTON -- The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) has submitted official comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to not make it more difficult for retailers to redeem food stamps, the association reported on its website.

The USDA is considering expanding requirements that food retailers must meet in order to redeem SNAP benefits. Specifically, it is looking at prohibiting stores from redeeming SNAP benefits, even if the store meets all of the program's prerequisites, based on volume of sales of non-SNAP items, such as alcohol or tobacco. This is part of a concerted effort to make it more difficult for convenience stores to participate in the program, according to NACS.

In a letter co-signed by NACS and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA), said that c-stores and gas stations "provide consumers with convenient locations to quickly purchase a wide variety of items, including many foods and beverages that Congress and the USDA have determined may be purchased with SNAP benefits. … Making it more difficult for retailers to redeem SNAP benefits will in turn make it more difficult for beneficiaries to access the nutrition they need. This is not consistent with the program's purpose."

The comments addressed the two concerns raised by the USDA: "The agency appears to be fallaciously conflating two separate and distinct issues: SNAP fraud and SNAP beneficiary purchasing decisions. Those two issues have nothing to do with one another. They have different unrelated solutions. Recognizing this fundamental fact is a necessary first step toward improving the Program. If the Agency conflates the two issues, it will solve neither of them. Instead, it will generate unintended consequences that will make it more difficult for less affluent Americans to buy food."

NACS said it believes that once a retailer meets the necessary eligibility requirements to redeem SNAP benefits, it should be allowed to participate in the program. Furthermore, this change would cause significant hardship for financially challenged Americans, especially for those who live in rural or deeply urban communities who depend on c-stores to access food on a regular basis.

NACS has posted the full letter detailing its position and addressing the USDA's concerns on its website.

Founded in 1961, NACS is the international association for convenience and fuel retailing. It has 2,100 retail and 1,600 supplier member companies, which do business in nearly 50 countries.

SIGMA was founded in 1958 in response to the growing need to present and promote the concerns and challenges of independent petroleum marketers to the government, the public and the larger petroleum industry.